Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
BYU running back Brayden El-Bakri, left, celebrates after Squally Canada scores a touchdown against Arizona in Tucson on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018.

PROVO — There’s a tiny statistic buried in BYU’s box score at Arizona that could loom large in weeks to come for Kalani Sitake's squad.

It’s often forgotten but is so important because it says so much.

In both the 21-point third quarter and in the final period Saturday night, BYU held the advantage in time of possession over the Wildcats at 11 minutes to three. That is just over 22-something minutes to about six something.

That speaks volumes of what was going on in the game and when the Cougars host California on Saturday for the home opener at LaVell Edwards Stadium, it will not be lost on both Sitake and Bears coach Justin Wilcox.

In that desert heat, it meant BYU had superior conditioning. It meant BYU’s line on both sides of the ball was winning. It meant one team had more chances, more fluidity, higher execution. And it explains how BYU scored 21 unanswered points. It also says, at least in that game, BYU established a run attack that could gobble up clock and get first downs.

This may not be the case at all against the likes of Wisconsin or Washington or even Cal. But if it is a feature that can be built upon, it would go a long way in making Tanner Mangum a more dangerous passer, thus BYU more than a six- or seven-win team.

If that’s the case, it would be disappointing to offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes and offensive line coach Ryan Pugh if BYU doesn’t hold a big advantage over Group of Five teams on its schedule.

A big key was BYU’s offensive line and the power run game led by Squally Canada, including his three-touchdown effort. Much of his success came running off blocks by right tackle Austin Hoyt and Notre Dame transfer guard Tristen Hoge. And that side was bolstered by power blocking from an in-motion tight end that kept the defense guessing.

"It was great,” said Hoyt. “I think we have put in a lot of work, meeting and film during the offseason. There were a lot of repetitions and trying to get everything right, whether it was scheme or technique. To see all that come together last Saturday night was nice for us. It was a great night and we are hoping to just get better from here.”

Come Saturday against Cal, one of the most interesting matchups will be how Cal’s 3-4 front of 6-foot-8, 300-pound Luc Bequette, 6-2, 335-pound Chris Palmer and 6-4, 260-pound Rusty Becker match up with BYU’s front line of blockers who can go from the standard five to double tight ends or seven blockers on the line. A standard move is to add defenders to the line.

Grimes is going a little beyond what Robert Anae did in beefing up the choices for the offensive line. It was Anae’s work that produced three of the top rushers in BYU history in Curtis Brown, Harvey Unga and Jamaal Williams.

Now comes Canada, who appears to be picking his lanes with patience and effectiveness. If this continues, it will completely change how efficient BYU’s offense can be. It will make Mangum or even Taysom Hill elevate to a level they’ve never enjoyed before.

If you control the clock with time of possession, you dictate games. But it takes a physical dominance and ability to lean so much weight on the opponent that they wear down

"That was the number one key to this game,” Hoyt told reporters earlier this week. “to physically dominate at every position. It is something that Coach Pugh talks about every day, the importance of being physical and violent and manhandling people. I think that was something that we thought about going into the game and I’m glad we were able to do that."

It is also a byproduct of what Sitake did in fall practice with extended 11-on-11 team segments, the kind of practice assistant head coach Ed Lamb said is fashioned after what NFL teams do.

Said Hoyt: "I think it was great. I can honestly remember at times during fall camp when I was more tired than I was in the actual game. I think a lot of that was just the physicality of camp and when we got to the game, we were playing at a high physical level because we had done that all through fall camp."

Of course, heading into Game 2 is way too early to determine just how well-conditioned the Cougars appear to be and if all this time of possession and physical play can be maintained.

The sample is small. Last week is history.

But this focus on the first line of football combat is intriguing.

Will Cal’s defense elect to stack the box, bring linebackers and safeties closer to the line and dare Mangum to beat them with his arm? Will Canada be as big a factor? Can the receivers beat man coverage and can Mangum deliver? Can BYU’s defense get Cal’s offense off the field?

It all begins at the point of attack.

And now, this week's picks:

23 comments on this story
  • Vanderbilt 28, Nevada 21: Wolfpack's venture into SEC territory fails.
  • Houston 32, Arizona 21: These Cougars extend Wildcats' woes.
  • Air Force 34, Florida Atlantic 21: Falcons bomb away.
  • Nebraska 27, Colorado 21: Huskers have too much firepower.
  • Missouri 21, Wyoming 17: Cowboys should take the money and ride.
  • Virginia 28, Indiana 14: Bronco’s defense delivers the win.
  • Utah 42, Northern Illinois 10: Ute defense frustrates this upstart exercise.
  • Utah State 31, New Mexico State 21: Aggies rebound with solid home win.
  • Oregon State 31, Southern Utah 14: Difference is at the line of scrimmage.
  • Stanford 21, Southern Cal 17: Trojans need more incubator time.
  • Boise State 33, UConn 21: Broncos' blue turf leaves Huskies crossed-eyed.
  • ASU 24, Michigan State 21: Sun Devils rising in Tempe.
  • Hawaii 42, Rice 17: They like rice on the table in Honolulu.
  • BYU 28, California 21: Cougars' line of scrimmage continues reign.

Last week: Last week 9-4 (.642)